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Esther Dyson On The Future Of Space Travel: We Are Only At "The End Of The Beginning"

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Today might have marked the last Space Shuttle launch, but it is not the end of people going into space. In fact, technologist, angel investor, and space privatization advocate Esther Dyson says it’s only “the end of the beginning” and that private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Xcor will fill in the gap.

I spoke with Dyson yesterday at our TCTV studios in New York City (when it was still unclear if a weather delay would prevent a launch). You can watch the video above.

Dyson has a lifelong love for space. Her father, the physicist Freeman Dyson, led a project at Los Alamos in the late-1950s to design a nuclear-powered spacecraft called the Orion Project. Today, she is an investor in Xcor and Space Adventures, as well as the more earthly Airship Ventures and Icon Aircarft. She recently completed six months cosmonaut training in Star City, Russia and is ready to go to space if she can catch a ride.

Of course we’ve seen space startups come and go before. But Dyson points out that this generation of startup entrepreneurs like Bezos, Musk, and Richard Branson are a lot richer, a lot more patient, and that now there is actually a need for them. “This time it’s different because these guys are credible,” she argues, “and they started out with billions, not millions.”

On Musk’s SpaceX rocket, she predicts, “it will be human-rated in a few years.” Until then, it’s Russian rockets that will take people to the Space Station. (Who was it who won the space race again?)